MESA Book Awards
Samuel A. White
2012 Albert Hourani Book Award Winner
The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire
Cambridge University Press
Samuel White’s book offers a compelling and nuanced interpretation of the decline of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the sixteenth century. The author’s assessment is based on an exemplary interdisciplinarity, as he weaves together environmental data with archival sources and chronicles in order to demonstrate how the outbreak of the Celali Rebellion in Anatolia in 1596 marked a turning point in Ottoman fortunes as the imperial systems of provisioning and settlement that defined Ottoman power in the 1500s began to unravel under the intense ecological pressure of the Little Ice Age. The result is a fresh look with new evidence, laid out in considerable detail, which fully unpacks previous narratives of Ottoman decline. White demonstrates that Ottoman setbacks and defeats were not simply a matter of political stagnation and decay, but reflected the period’s turbulence and transformations born of environmental crises with devastating economic impacts.
This detailed study of a specific era will be of considerable interest to a wide range of scholars working on the economic and political history of the Near East and on Ottoman influence in and interaction with Europe, as well as students of global environmental history. White tells this complex story in accessible prose, with a lively-- often gripping and occasionally even humorous style--that fully captures the drama of the story as sultans, military provisioning, and war are upstaged at various critical junctures by the dearth of Ottoman sheep, but in no way compromises the work’s academic rigor.